Intrinsic Goodness and Contingency, Resemblance and Particularity: Two Criticisms of Robert Adams's Finite and Infinite Goods

Studies in Christian Ethics 25 (4):418-441 (2012)

Abstract
Robert Adams’s Finite and Infinite Goods is one of the most important and innovative contributions to theistic ethics in recent memory. This article identifies two major flaws at the heart of Adams’s theory: his notion of intrinsic value and his claim that ‘excellence’ or finite goodness is constituted by resemblance to God. I first elucidate Adams’s complex, frequently misunderstood claims concerning intrinsic value and Godlikeness. I then contend that Adams’s notion of intrinsic value cannot explain what it could mean for countless finite goods to be intrinsically valuable. Next, I articulate a criticism of his Godlikeness thesis altogether unlike those he has previously addressed: I show that, on Adams’s own account of Godlikeness, a diverse myriad of excellences could not possibly count as resembling God. His theory thus fails to account for a whole world of finite goods. I defend my two criticisms against objections and briefly sketch a more Aristotelian and Christian way forward.
Keywords Robert Adams  resemblance  intrinsic goodness  Platonism  value theory  Godlikeness
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DOI 10.1177/0953946812454789
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